Royal Marine, Mark Ormrod (MBE), was the UK’s first triple amputee to survive the conflict in Afghanistan. In 2007, at the age of 24, his life changed forever after he stood on an IED whilst serving his country. His determination not to let his injuries get the better of him, has led to him winning multiple medals at the Invictus Games, becoming an author, motivational speaker and inspiration. In this episode of the Fear Naught Podcast, Mark shares his inspiring story with our host, James Banks, a former Captain in the Royal Artillery.
“I’d never heard of an example of a Royal Marine who had quit or given up. I thought, ‘I’m not going to be that guy. I’ve got 347 years of history here’. I felt like I needed to show the rest of the world what Royal Marines are about and the standards we live to.”Listen to the podcast now
Why join the Royal Marines?
I was about 15 and a half, six months out from leaving school and I just kind of had this epiphany. I had friends that were in the Army, Navy and Air Force. They were telling me about their adventures and I thought, ‘that sounds like the life for me’.
My dad told me I had an uncle who was a retired Royal Marine. We arranged a visit to go and see him, and when I walked in, the first thing I saw was this huge, framed citation on the wall with a big gleaming officers’ sword on top of it, with a green beret hanging on the end. He explained how the Royal Marines are different from other branches of the military and the kinds of things that I could expect to do and experience in my life if I had a go at it and was successful. I thought, ‘if I’m going to go for the military, I might as well go all in and see if I can be the very best version of myself and be able to achieve what my uncle did.
All I wanted to do was see if I could earn a green beret, so I set out on a mission.
On tour in Afghanistan in 2007
On Christmas Eve 2007, we were halfway through the tour in Afghanistan and were given the brief on what was to be our next foot patrol. It was very basic actually. But halfway through that patrol, as we were doing our first loop and coming back into camp, I stood on an improvised explosive device, which resulted in me losing both my legs above the knee and my right arm above the elbow.
Moments after Mark stepped on an IED
I remember everything. I was in no pain for the immediate time after the explosion. I thought we’d been attacked. My fight or flight kicked in. So, I got ready to get into what I thought was a firefight, and it wasn’t until the dust cloud settled from the explosion that I realised what I had done. I was in a minefield with six other devices around me.
The explosion had created a crater that was 12 foot deep by 15 feet around, so it was a huge bang. I then understood what I had done. The device wasn’t designed to maim, it was designed to kill. Then the evacuation started. I’m sure it wasn’t perfect, but from where I was sat, it was perfect. The way the other men in the section reacted. The professionalism, the bravery, the courage. Everything they did was like a well-oiled machine.
By the time a medic got to me, I was starting to feel a bit of pain, so he administered morphine. He had to scoop up my right foot and my right arm, that were severely damaged but still attached. My left leg was completely gone. They put me on a stretcher and took me out of the minefield to a vehicle that was waiting for me. The last thing I can remember is getting to the helicopter landing site, the sandstorm that was created from the propeller blades and the heat from the exhaust. Then I blacked out.
Overcoming Adversity with Mark OrmrodListen to his story
Royal Marine, Mark Ormrod (MBE), was the UK’s first triple amputee to survive the conflict in Afghanistan. In 2007, his life changed forever after he stood on an IED whilst serving his country. His determination not to let his injuries get the better of him, has led to him winning multiple medals at the Invictus Games.
Maximising Potential with Heather StanningListen to her story
A double Olympic rowing champion, who made history, with her partner Helen Glover, when they became the first British female rowers to win an Olympic title at London 2012 and successfully defended it at Rio 2016. Heather is a Battery Commander serving with 47 Regiment Royal Artillery.
Shifting Mindset with Jordan WylieListen to his story
Former soldier, extreme adventurer, bestselling author and TV personality, Jordan Wylie, talks about his life in the military and finding his way after he left, his battle with mental health, how he shifted his mindset, and why now he feels his purpose in life is to educate, encourage and inspire young people.
Waking up and proposing to his now-wife
I woke up very briefly on 28th December for what felt like about 15 maybe 20 seconds. When I say woke up, I struggled to open my eyes, and I remember feeling this extreme amount of exhaustion. It was like someone had put fishhooks on my eyelids and was dangling weights off them. I was trying my hardest with all my energy to open my eyes and I couldn’t do it.
In that 15-20 seconds of confusion, I remember hearing my now wife’s voice, and I proposed to her. I had no idea where I was, I was gagging on a feeding tube, I couldn't open my eyes, but I heard her voice, so I knew I was going to be okay. She tells me that I gave a crooked smile and then passed out, after she’d accepted. Even though I didn’t know what was going on, I wasn’t scared, I didn’t panic, I felt fine, I felt safe. Three days after that, they brought me out of this drug induced coma and introduced me to the world.
Hitting rock bottom
The first six weeks in hospital were pretty horrendous. I was 24 years old when I got injured. 6 feet 2, 16 stone, reduced to just under 9 stone and I think I’m probably about 4 feet without prosthetics. My life had been shattered. I’ve got a huge scar on my left palm, where I had a hole in my hand, so I could only use two fingers for the first four or five weeks. An amputation specialist visited me on week three, telling me I’d have no chance of ever being able to walk again.
Army Sergeant gives fresh hope
A week after that, I had a visit from an Army Sergeant called Mick Brennon, who had lost both of his legs in Iraq in 2005. He told me, actually you will be able to walk. He talked me though his journey. He told me about prosthetics and how they worked. That was the moment for me, after a couple of ups and downs, when I physically saw somebody out there actually doing it. I was like, right, time to start setting some goals. I wanted to put my flag in the sand and relentlessly march on towards that.
Setting goals to walk again
The minute I left hospital, I got issued my legs and started training. The one goal was to stand at the parade ground, walk onto it, stand with the lads I fought with, and then get my medal pinned on my chest, stood upright, rather than sat in a wheelchair.
I’d never heard of an example of a Royal Marine who had quit or given up. I thought, ‘I’m not going to be that guy. I’ve got 347 years of history here’. I felt like I needed to show the rest of the world what Royal Marines are about and the standards we live to.
Overcoming pain & managing expectations
My whole body alignment was shifted with prosthetics. My lower back was always in pain in the early days. I had blisters at the ends of my legs, the prosthetics would cut into my groin and I’d be bleeding all the time. It takes between 300 – 500% more energy for a double above knee amputee to do anything, more than an able-bodied person, so I was constantly exhausted, but thinking about failing, I couldn’t do it. It drove me on every day to make progress.
Some people were trying to manage my expectations. It’s funny, because I met my physio years later and he said that during those first couple of months, when I was setting all these goals, they said I was suffering from something called post traumatic euphoria. It’s when you go through a traumatic incident and you go, ‘I’m going to climb Mount Everest on one hand going backwards, with just a pair of shorts on’. You just set these ridiculous goals to motivate yourself, and then reality hits and you crash hard. He said, you just never crashed. You set these goals and you just kept on going.
Mark Ormrod's proudest achievement
So many people asked me if I would do the Paralympics, but I had no interest. All I wanted to do was master walking, master prosthetics and not use a wheelchair. Everyone told me it was impossible. I was like, ‘right, let’s see’.
On June 9th 2009, I flew out to America to meet a guy to mentor me and that was the last time I used my wheelchair. That’s definitely my proudest achievement. I wanted to live a normal life and master prosthetics. The funny thing is that having done the Invictus Games, mastering prosthetics, was a lot harder. It’s every day for the rest of your life.
Motivation vs Discipline
Motivation is temporary. I could go out feeling a bit down, and put on some 80s power ballads to lift myself up and feel a bit more motivated. Then when I turn the stereo off, what happens? You’ve got to be disciplined, rather than motivated. I find that if you have goals in your life and something that excites you and something to go towards, then the motivation is in abundance. But sometimes you have to switch to discipline and remember why you’re doing what you are doing.
Mark Ormrod's key to happiness
I wish more people would spend time working on themselves and figure out what their passion is and their purpose is, and then spend their life pursuing it. Then your life is filled with motivation, because you are doing what you love. A lot of people are working, to earn money, to have a two-week holiday. I know people whose whole life is a holiday. They’ve merged what they love doing and they’ve found a way to make a career out of it.
What does the future hold?
I’m writing another book. We are making a movie about my life. Potentially making another documentary. I’m going to relaunch my podcast soon. I’m working and travelling as a speaker. I’m trying to merge my passions with my profession and make the next 50, 60, 70, 80 years of my life an even bigger adventure, and take my friends and family with me.
Fear Naught is owned and operated by Scotty's Little Soldiers and 100% of our profits allow us to support bereaved military children and young people around the UK through an effective combination of practical, emotional and educational support. Scotty's support young people who have experienced the death of a parent who served in the British Armed Forces. We offer a range of services designed to connect our members and create a community of bereaved military children built around mutual support.